By Daniel Hunter

Retail sales in the UK grew at their fastest rate for 18 months in June, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Like-for-like sales, which exclude new stores, rose 1.8% in June, compared to the same month last year when they had fallen 0.8%.

Total sales were up by 2.9%, compared with a 0.6% rise in 2014.

Total food sales grew again in June for the seventh month in a row, excluding Easter distortions, ahead of their 0.3% decline over the last 12 months. Total Non-Food sales grew 2.6% over the three months to June, close to their 12-month average growth of 3.1%.

'Toys & Baby Equipment' was the best performing category, helped by outdoor toys, particularly in the last week of the month, when the heat wave stimulated the sales of all seasonal items. Fashion categories were helped by several retailers going into summer sale earlier than last year.

Online sales of Non-Food products in the UK grew 17.6% in June versus a year earlier, when they had grown 10.6%. The Non-Food online penetration rate was 18.4%, up from 16.9% in June 2014.

In a statement, the British Retail Consortium, said: “The retail industry performed strongly last month, experiencing the best overall sales growth in eighteen months, excluding Easter distortions, albeit on the back of a weak June last year. Food sales grew for the seventh month in a row, while June also brought with it a boost for the non-food categories, with furniture doing particularly well. Fashion sales were also up, but this was likely helped by several retailers entering summer sales a little earlier this year. The last week of June ended the month on a high note, with seasonal items like outdoor toys in high demand.

“We saw welcome signs of growing consumer confidence, with people more willing to ‘trade-up’ and spend a bit more on big-ticket purchases, likely boosted by the growth in the supply of credit and other factors such as low inflation and rising real incomes. Some of the measures outlined by the Chancellor in last week’s budget are likely to help boost consumer confidence even further, with measures like the continued freeze in fuel duty and the increased personal tax allowance ensuring consumers have more money in their pockets to spend. We also welcome the Chancellor’s focus on increasing productivity. This is of crucial importance to enhancing retailers’ ability to continue to serve their customers better.”